January 18, 2003
By Raffique Shah
IF the men's division of next Sunday's Clico T&T Marathon holds out hope for a new course record, the women's division of the race promises to be the most exciting ever. Defending men's champion, John Muriuki of Kenya, has already signalled that "anyone who is going to win this race will need to run under 2:15." The champ hopes to pocket US$5,000 by winning the race in record time. Muriuki will be looking to fend off challenges from five-time champ Pamenos Ballantyne, Kenyan Simon Sawe (2nd in 2002), Tunisian Chokri Dhoudi (2:17 personal best) and Eddy Hellebuyck of the USA who has the fastest time of them all-2:12.
T&T's national champ, Ronnie Holassie, who has never won the local marathon, has decided to skip yet another edition because, as he told the organisers, "I'm still not fully fit...I'll run a marathon here in Miami one week after yours. It's cooler, so I hope to do a decent time." Holassie posted a national record of 2:13:04 in the Cleveland Marathon in 2001.
In the women's division, though, even the absence of the defending champion will hardly affect its quality. Ulrike Puchner, the Austrian who stole the race-and the hearts of marathon fans-last year in 2:52:05, has to sit this one out because she's recovering from surgery for a "heel spur". However, the organisers have secured two other top class marathoners in the persons of Poland's' Joanna Gront and Danish champ Gitte Karlshoej. With 2001 champion, USA's Tammy Slussler also in the fray, the women's race could well turn out to be more exciting than the men's. The women will seek not only to win the 1st prize if US$3,000, but also take an additional US$1,000 for setting a new course record.
Gront has a personal best for the marathon of 2:35:07. She won the Dublin Marathon in 2001, was 2nd in the Mercedes Marathon (Birmingham, USA) in 2002 and won the Las Vegas Marathon in 2000. Gront has been in training for the T&T race ever since she was contracted to run here. She will, however, come up against Karlshoej, who has a better marathon time, and some very fast times for the shorter races. The Danish champ was 9th among females in the prestigious Boston Marathon last year; she was also 2nd in Chicago in 1997. Karlshoej has personal best times as follows: 15:22 for the 5K, 32:25 for the 10K, 1:09:52 for the half-marathon, and 2:31:31, which she posted in the Chicago race.
With several Venezuelans also slated to do battle over the 26.2 miles course-that country has fielded several male and female winners of the T&T Marathon-the race could turn out to be a record-breaking one. With Murieki promising to win in under 2:15, spectators may well be treated to the fastest marathon ever in the entire Caribbean. And if one of the women push each other to around 2:45, that, too, will be the fastest ever in the region.
The marathon starts at 5.30am next Sunday (Jan 26th) outside Mid-Centre Mall in Chaguanas. It will take participants through Montrose, Enterprise, Cunupia, Caroni, Curepe, St Joseph, San Juan, Barataria, Laventille, Wrightson Road, Ariapita Avenue, Mucurapo Road, Cocorite, back through St James, finishing outside the Oval. The winner is expected to breast the tape shortly after 7.40am.
Clico Marathon 2003